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Housing

Number of rough sleepers in London rises by 10 per cent in just three months

A new official count reveals 3,000 people were spotted sleeping rough in London between April and June this year as the cost of living crisis bites.

The number of people spotted sleeping rough in London rose by 10 per cent in just three months between April and June, according to official statistics.

In total, just under 3,000 people were spotted sleeping on the streets in the capital for at least one night, the London-only Combined Homelessness Action Information Network (Chain) revealed. That’s a sharp increase on the 2,714 people counted by frontline workers between January and March.

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The alarming rise comes a day after statutory homelessness statistics revealed a similar rise in the number of people asking councils for support with homelessness in England. The figures were described as a “warning shot” by homelessness charities, citing fears that the cost of living crisis is putting households at risk of losing their homes.

This must act as a wakeup call for the new prime minister that we cannot be complacent if we’re to end rough sleeping for good,” said Matt Downie, Crisis chief executive.   

“With each passing day the cost of living crisis pushes more people to the edge as they struggle to cope with the surge in bills, rent, and food, and yet we still do not have an updated rough sleeping strategy that sets out a clear plan for how we will tackle one of the greatest social injustices of our time.

“We cannot let anyone else fall through the cracks and face the brutality of homelessness. The new prime minister must publish an updated rough sleeping strategy as a matter of urgency, which includes a plan to deliver the genuinely affordable homes we need, so that no one has to face life on the streets.”  

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Last month London mayor Sadiq Khan – who commissions the Chain count – hailed the progress made in tackling rough sleeping in the English capital as annual figures revealed a drop of a quarter.

Khan warned the cost of living crisis threatened to “reverse hard-won gains”. Now the latest quarterly figures, published on Friday, show signs of that coming to pass.

Of the almost 3,000 people spotted, 1,446 were seen sleeping rough for the first time. That, too, was around 10 per cent higher than the 1,295 people spotted for the first time between January and March and a 23 per cent increase on April to June 2021.

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There was also a 13 per cent rise in the number of people deemed to be living on the streets in just three months. The 411 people spotted sleeping rough in the city for three or more weeks was also 4 per cent higher than in April to June 2021.

Balbir Kaur Chatrik, director of policy at youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, described the rise as “worrying” but said the number of young people facing homelessness in London is starting to fall.

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“The 210 young people counted is still far too high and each number represents a young life literally put at risk for want of a safe place to stay,” said Chatrik.

“As we look ahead to a winter of rising prices and higher bills, it’s vital the government takes steps as soon as possible to not only help people avoid becoming homeless but to also ensure those who do, have a safe place to stay.”

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